February 29, 2020
A Gay Guide to Loving Yourself
I knew I was different from a very young age.
I remember being called the “girly boy” on the playground in first grade and being the slowest runner of my entire class of fifty students. It had come to me that I am truly not like everybody else. But I dreamed, that my “girly” traits would gradually fade out as I grew up as if nothing has happened.
During middle school, I came to terms with my own sexual orientation. It was a long journey of self-acceptance filled with confusion, anger, and internal conflict. Growing up in China, I did not have any discussion or media regarding the LGBTQ population in my school or household. After entering an American international school in Singapore halfway through sixth grade, I was exposed to another world. While I encountered students with diverse backgrounds, I was immediately overwhelmed as the “new kid from China” and struggled to make friends.
As sexuality came into play, it only added salt onto the wound. I expected myself to live a normal life; there seemed to be nothing normal about being gay. There was no one by my side, guiding me how to react to this new-found part of me. Engulfed by helplessness, I tried assuring myself over and over, like so many other closeted teenagers, that this was only a phase. My middle school had a fairly large LGBTQ student population yet I chose to keep my distance, convinced that I am not one of them. The pride and confidence that some of my classmates possess as they openly present their queerness to the world kindled nothing but jealousy within me.
“Hate” could be a strong word. But for a brief moment, I hated myself for being so vulnerable that I could not own up to my own identity.
I applied for boarding schools in New England at the beginning of eighth grade. Fast forward to months later, I was jumping up and down in elation upon my letter of acceptance. I soon packed all my luggage with my mother and kissed Singapore goodbye. Spending the summer back home, I was able to reflect on the past and tear down the walls that had once trapped me. I summoned up my courage to come out to my best friend and spent many late-night hours binging RuPaul’s Drag Race. By the time I arrived at my high school in Massachusetts, I felt like a new person. It was as if I have regained my breath and living as my true self.
In spite of my new-found self-acceptance and friendships, I was able to forge in my freshman year. My new environment was not full of rainbows and smiles as prejudice and bigotry towards gay people lurk beneath the blasting EDMs in my dormitory. Rude or insensitive remarks coated by a dash toxic masculinity were often made in the hallway where I found myself unable to blend into the status quo. I felt an urge to speak out and condemn against the things I heard but I knew that actions like this would do nothing except placing me on the center of mockery. Thus, I protected myself with my own confidence and sought support from my group of friends and understanding adults.
I became a member of my school’s GSA, something that I stayed away from during middle school. In meetings, we openly discussed topics regarding the LGBTQ population in schools which made me feel happy, hopeful, and most importantly, safe within my community. I became a GSA leader in the current school year and organized various activities and workshops during National Coming-out day and MLK day. I have also spoken in front of the whole school during the LGBTQ history month (October). Being able to take initiative to promote love in my community rewarded me with immense pride and satisfaction, but sometimes, I wonder if I am doing enough.
Looking back, I simply do not want parts of my past to be repeated in somebody else’s future.
As I became more involved in the topic of LGBTQ rights in schools, I see the rising importance of loving yourself. It is a necessary first step to open ourselves for love from others. At the same time, the world could be rapidly changing but hate and danger still prevail for us to brace through while channeling strength from within. This could never be easy, and therefore it is also our responsibility to reach out a helping hand when we see a need.
With that, in the romantic month of February, I wish everyone (especially the gays!) finds something within ourselves to fall in love with. Good luck!